OK. By now, you’ve heard about this movie called THE HUNGER GAMES. You may have even read the book (I hope). Like any adaptation, there is bound to be some scenes, characters, or storyline that will be cut out or merged due to time constraints. It is understandable that sacrifices must be made in order to progress a story and in this case, the adaptation is perhaps made slightly more difficult by the fact that the books were written in first person – from the point of view of our heroine, Katniss Everdeen.
But I am not here to critique the movie – there are already plenty of movie critics and film reviewers who have done this. I thought I would just highlight a few scenes that made the book all-the-more appealing to me that did not make it into the final cut of the film, or were changed. To those of you who have read the trilogy, you will probably notice some of these scenes/characters will become more significant in the subsequent books in the series, and so, I hope, they will be brought back into the film adaptation of those books.
Please note that I am writing this post on the assumption that you have either read the book or seen the movie or both, therefore, no detailed explanation is being given as to the overall plot or cast of characters.
The iconic Mockingjay pin
The Mockingjay is a species that was created as a result of jabberjays (a special muttation of birds designed as homers with the ability to memorise and repeat human conversations) mating with mockingbirds which are considered harmless birds with the gift of song. The mockingjay pin worn by Katniss became a symbol of hope (and later, rebellion) throughout The Hunger Games trilogy and was originally given to her by Madge, the daughter of the Mayor of District 12 where Katniss lives. However, in the movie, Katniss finds this pin in the store where she trades and the pin is given to her by the storekeeper.
Why does this matter? Neither the Mayor of District 12 nor his daughter are mentioned in the film at all. The residents of District 12 will become more important in CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY.
After the death of Katniss’ father in a mining accident (the same explosion that also killed Gale’s father), Katniss became the primary care-giver for her mother and her younger sister. When her mother finally came out of her constant state of depression, she assumed the role of the district’s apothecary, and it is from her mother that Katniss learned to identify medicinal herbs and edible plants that helped her survive in the arena as a tribute.
In the movie adaptation, “hunger” does not seem as intense as the constant fear of attack by the other tributes. In the pivotal scene in which both Katniss and Peeta are the final two tributes left in the Games and the Gamekeepers changed the rules again, the “star-crossed lovers” held the Gamekeepers to ransom by having us believe they would rather die eating poisonous berries than to kill the other. At this point, we only know the berries are poisonous from an earlier scene in which another tribute had died from eating them.
Why does this matter? Because Katniss’ survival depended on her ability to hunt and kill as well as her ability to heal.
After the reaping
Another character that barely rated a mention was Peeta’s father – the baker. In the movie, Peeta mentions early on that his father is a fan of Katniss’ hunting skills as he often buys squirrels from her. In the book, Mellark Sr makes a significant impression on Katniss when visits her moments before she is taken, with his son, to the Capitol for the Games. At this meeting, he gives her some cookies – a luxury Katniss was never able to afford.
Why does this matter? Throughout the book, Katniss never allows herself to trust anyone other than her best friend and hunting partner Gale. She also dislikes the idea of owing anyone for anything. We see a flashback where a starving Katniss sits in the rain outside the Mellarks’ bakery and Peeta throws her a loaf of bread that saved her life (in the book, she was not quite 12 although the incident appeared to have been a little more recent in the flashback we saw in the movie). Ever since that day, she always felt she owed him her life. His father’s kind gesture with the cookies made her even more uneasy: did he give her the cookies out of the kindness of his heart saddened by her inevitable fate, or was he trying to weaken her resolve hoping she would spare his son in the arena?
A great deal of the preparation of Katniss and Peeta for the arena revolves around what they ate, how they dressed and how they trained. In the movie, we did not meet the Avox who was Katniss’ servant during her time at the Capitol. An Avox is someone who has committed a crime against the Capitol and, as punishment, has his/her tongue cut off so that they could never speak again. We discover in the book that Katniss first met this girl in the forest in which she and Gale hunt. The pair had spotted a hovercraft from the Capitol taking this girl away, presumably for trying to escape from the Capitol, while the young boy she was with was killed. Katniss never knew what happened to that girl after she was taken up in the hovercraft, until that moment when they met again.
Why does this matter? The Avox, as a class of voiceless and helpless citizens of Panem, serves to remind readers of the incredible power and cruelty with which the Capitol dishes out punishment to those who dare defy its rules. The connection between this particular Avox and Katniss, as well as the moment over dinner when Peeta covers for Katniss by pretending that the Avox had reminded them of a girl back home instead of someone Katniss knew, are moments that show us her naiveté, her regrets and perhaps even her moments of weakness.
The gift from District 11
Katniss was on her own in the arena. She believes that to befriend someone would mean she would not be able to kill them when it mattered. However, when little 12-year-old Rue from District 11 saves her from the Careers, they form an alliance. She feels protective of Rue who is the same age as her own sister. In the end, as Rue lays dying, Katniss holds her in her arms and sings to her. After Rue dies, Katniss covers her in flowers. In the movie, we see District 11’s violent reaction to Rue’s death as riots erupt all through her district. However, in a most touching moment in the book, the people of District 11 sends a loaf of bread, delivered via parachute, to Katniss in the arena to show their gratitude at the way she had protected their little girl.
Why does this matter? In a poor district, the people collected what little they had to buy the bread to send to Katniss. The bread also comes at a time when, once again, Katniss was fighting hunger. Most importantly, that act of gratitude is a hint of the kind of revolt that is to come in the future.
So, there you have it. A little summary of some of the things I would have liked to have seen in the movie adaptation that did not make the cut. Of course, you can never expect the same amount of detail to translate properly from page to screen, but perhaps those who have not read the book may now be tempted to go back to the pages and find out more…
And may the odds be ever in your favour.